Elgar – Symphony no 1


So I’m reading the liner notes on this record, and it is as if I’m reading a history book. The piece is about a Major-General Charles Gordon, who was sent on expedition in 1884 to subdue a Sudan revolt. He arrives in Khartoum and is quickly killed. And while I’m reading this I’m thinking: what on earth does this have to do with Elgar and his first symphony?

I’m reading on, and it feels like the writer is trying what he can to connect the two. Elgar planned to create a memorial symphony for Gordon, but he didn’t dare because he felt as a young composer he was not up to the work yet. But a small musical reminder is still there in the music.

I’m still feeling: what does this have to do with the work? Then it hits me: it is a recording made live, and the proceeds of it go to Oxfam, for famine relief in Ethiopia and Sudan. That makes this recording quite special: Colin Davis has conducted the work with the London Symphony Orchestra, but I cannot find anything else, certainly no recording with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Except this one.

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